In the first post of this blog series, I talked about what being a mentor teacher is. It’s important to understand your role in the partnership with a beginning teacher. But how do you develop a trusting, productive new teacher-mentor relationship?
Start With Self-Reflection
First, you need to think about what you want the mentor-mentee relationship to look like. Here’s where a little self-reflection comes in:
- What kind of mentor did you have your first year? What did he/she do that helped you? How could he/she have better supported you?
- What character traits do you have that will help you in your role? What are some areas that you may need to work on?
- What will you need from each other to work together effectively?
- What excites you about working together?
- What concerns do you have about working with a beginning teacher? How can you address them early on?
Some of these questions you may want to discuss together, and others are just food for thought.
Provide a Warm Welcome
We all know that saying about first impressions. There are lots of small, easy things you can do to make a beginning teacher feel welcome on his/her first day at the school.
You can provide lunch, hang a welcome sign or banner on the classroom door, leave a note in his/her staff mailbox, etc. You might ask your librarian or reading teacher for some books to get his/her classroom library started. It’s also easy to put together a low-cost welcome basket with Dollar Spot goodies and basic supplies.
Get to Know Each Other
Your relationship starts on Day 1. Taking time to learn more about each other is an important step to start building trust and developing connections. You could do a school orientation and tour, have lunch out together, exchange phone numbers, or chat over coffee! Some things to consider:
- How can you get to know each other on both a personal and professional level?
- What are some things you want him/her to know about you, and vice versa?
- What ground rules/expectations/schedules (if any) do you want to set in place right away (i.e., for communication)?
Keep It Up All Year Long
After the craziness of the Back to School season ends, things won’t get any less busy for the new teacher. As the year progresses, so will your working relationship. Some questions to think about:
- How do you plan to check in on your mentee throughout the year?
- How will you know if your relationship is going well? What will you do to address it if it’s not?
- What other relationships can you help your mentee develop in the school community? (Remember, you are not the sole support system!)
What Qualities Should the New Teacher-Mentor Relationship Have?
Communication. Ideally, you’ll have frequent (daily/weekly) conversations with your mentee that occur face-to-face or through text/email Consider having an open-door policy, or, if you prefer, set boundaries about times you’re available. Be sure to observe and listen to what is being said as well as what’s not!
Respect. Like any partnership, it needs to go both ways. Respect each other, your ideas, your feelings, your needs, your differences, and your time.
Empathy. We’ve all been a first-year teacher. A little understanding and grace goes a long way. Providing a judgment-free space (and sharing your own highs and lows) will encourage him/her to talk things through rather than struggle alone.
Trust. Your mentee needs to trust that you will listen with an open mind and not slam him or her with judgment or share what is discussed with others (unless there is a safety concern, of course).
Flexibility. The needs of a new teacher will ebb and flow as you move through the school year, and so will yours. Your relationship may need to change throughout the year, and it will do so more easily with open communication.
Guidance. You are not there to answer every question or fix every problem, and that should not be your mentee’s expectation. The role of a mentor teacher is more about coaching and providing guidance.
Collaboration. Healthy collaboration between you and your mentee should be a two-person effort, with both of you feeling that you can contribute and be heard.
Joy. You don’t have to be best friends, but finding joy in your relationship, in your role, and in your mentee is certainly helpful. Celebrating successes, finding things to laugh about, and learning from each other is all part of the package.
Your working relationship with your mentee does not have to be perfect, but it does have to work for both of you. Take a step back to reflect and reach out for help if it’s not going as well as you’d like.
There’s a lot to think about here to get started developing that teacher-mentor relationship! In the next post, I’ll share about the work you’ll be doing as a mentor teacher!
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